So it has been seven months since I have written a blog post on here. And every time I opened it up or opened my Instagram to write something, there were two feelings: Not knowing where to start, and then not feeling up to starting anywhere. I just wasn’t ready. But I am now.
First things first: I was gearing up to write a January Whole30 sum-up post in the beginning of February when a lot changed in my life. My mom was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Outlook was not good. Google research was the most terrifying (and idiotic) thing I have ever done. I was really scared. I’m not sure I am ready to go into a super detailed blog post about everything just yet, but the short version is that the past five months have been really hard.
I don’t want to make it seem like I’m the victim here. My mom is the one that went through this (also note, this is posted with her permission). But anyone who has been through this knows that it is a tough time for family too. The thing no one talks about with cancer is that it’s time consuming – between the chemo, radiation, million different doctors appointments… it’s exhausting. And then there’s the emotional aspect of being there for that person. And then dealing with everything else going on in your life. Although I was lucky enough to have been able to take time off when I needed (which was a lot, and I’m so grateful to coworkers for helping me out when I needed it), work and other obligations were still there (and timing wise, it also happened to be an extremely busy time at work).
Luckily, my mom is doing well for now. We are still waiting on some additional tests, but she finished up chemo and radiation and is feeling a lot better. I’m so happy for her and relieved, and just trying to be hopeful and positive.
But all this leads me to the real point of this post: Now that I am coming out of (hopefully) this very crazy time in my life, I thought it may be the perfect time to share some tips on how to deal when your life in literally imploding. Not just how to destress (there are no bubble baths on this list) – when you are feeling truly overwhelmed, what can help. Not every moment was perfect, but I tried to be really mindful about taking care of myself during these last five months (the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” kind of thing) and I feel like it made a difference.
- Go to therapy. I can’t overstate this enough. The stigma around mental health and therapy is completely ridiculous. I got right back into therapy when this started and having someone to talk to about everything made all the difference. Taking care of yourself is great – and talking to someone is a great way to do that.
- When someone you care about asks you how you’re doing, answer it honestly. Don’t just say “fine” or “good.” When you’re going through a tough time, sometimes it’s a million times harder having to be fake all the time and pretend like everything’s great. If it’s not great, say so. It felt so good to not have to pretend all the time. And on a related note…
- Lean on the people that care about you. Tell them honestly how you’re feeling and what’s going on. Accept help when they offer. Shutting out the people you love won’t help (see above – having to pretend like everything is fine isn’t worth the effort).
- Tap into what you really want to do – and do it. Some days I craved the company of my friends and it would feel great seeing them. Other days I needed quiet time. I tried to stop saying “yes” to everything just to say yes and tried to think about how I was feeling first. If I needed some quiet time, I took it.
- Be kind to yourself. Robyn Conley Downs from Real Food Whole Life has a great saying I love, which is “Gentle is the new perfect.” I really tried to embrace that. Every time I was frustrated with myself for letting laundry pile up or having a messy house or being bad at texting a friend back, I would just remind myself Gentle is the new perfect. This was not the time to be a perfectionist. I practiced, and became good at, giving myself a little bit of grace.
- I tried to take really good care of myself physically. In tough times, it’s easy to go the opposite route (which I absolutely have done before) and just say, eff it, and binge eat my face off. I realized early on that it was in my mom’s best interest for me to take care of myself, so I could be there for her – it wouldn’t help if I got sick, felt terrible or had no energy. I didn’t do anything strict with eating or exercise, but I generally tried to eat well and workout. That being said, see #5 – if I was exhausted, I skipped the gym. If I really wanted some wine, I drank some wine.
- Hug a dog. I have a dog, so this one was easy, but seriously. It is extremely well documented (you can spend hours reading articles on it, but here’s a quick one and another) that animals help relieve stress and anxiety. Spend time with your dog. Or with your friend’s dog. Or adopt a dog. Or go to a cat cafe. Or volunteer at a shelter. Or go to a petting zoo. For god’s sake, just pet some sort of animal. This really can make a huge difference.
- Make time for yourself – start a morning routine! One of my New Year’s Resolutions for this year was to start a morning routine. When things got crazier and crazier, it was tempting to drop that. But I realized that the morning routine was keeping me sane. I’d meditate, keep a gratitude journal, drink coffee, read or write. Starting my day with that made me feel I had a little bit of control when I felt out of control and gave me a little bit of quiet when things did not feel quiet at all.
- Sing a song in your car at the top of your lungs. I’ll admit it’s been ages since I listened to music loudly in my car and screamed lyrics along. It’s mostly podcasts and audiobooks now (gosh, I am so old), but on one particularly frustrating day, I blasted a song I loved from high school, and channeled 17-year old me, and just yelled some angsty lyrics, and god, it felt good.
- And lastly – go to damn bed. Get more sleep than you think you need. Really.